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Blakeney, Trojans prepare for New Orleans Bowl

Troy University football coach Larry Blakeney has made it a point all year to issue challenges.

He has challenged his players, he has challenged his coaching staff and, on occasion, he has challenged Trojan fans. Thursday, at a news conference prior to the start of the Trojans’ preparations for the 2008 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Blakeney was again issuing challenges.

The Trojans (8-4) will face Southern Miss (6-6) on Sunday night, Dec. 21, at the Louisiana Superdome, with kickoff set for 7:15 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPN and will be rebroadcast on CSS on Christmas Day at 5 p.m. and on Dec. 26 at 11:30 a.m.

“I have heard thousands of people say that when we had eight wins last year and lost to FAU, that they had reservations in New Orleans,” Blakeney said. “They have all said that they wanted us to carry them back there. Well, we are back there, and I want to challenge all of them to go with us.

“They all need to be in New Orleans with us, spend some time there with us, buy their tickets from us and have a good time with this football program and this university’s people in New Orleans.”

The goal for the Trojans from the very start of the season was to capture an outright Sun Belt title and return to the New Orleans Bowl. After sharing the league crown with Middle Tennessee (2006) and FAU (2007), capturing a solo championship was the primary concern of the players all year.

“This is awesome,” junior linebacker Bear Woods said.”This is right where we wanted to be – outright champs and going to another New Orleans Bowl. We are looking forward to it, and we are looking forward to another win.”

Junior quarterback Levi Brown echoed those sentiments.

“That was our goal all year,” Brown said. “Before we started the season, our goal was to win the Sun Belt and go to the New Orleans Bowl. We are excited to finally have reached our goals.”

Getting back to New Orleans was the goal from the start, but the road back to the Superdome was certainly not an easy one.

“These players and coaches have certainly done a great job,” Blakeney said. “When you think back to July 28, when we first reported, and all of the things we had to do to be champions.

“The price is always paid, it doesn’t matter how you get there. You have to be resilient and overcome a lot of things that go into being a competitive student-athlete in this day and age.”

But just getting to the New Orleans Bowl is not all the Trojans want to accomplish. There is still one game left to play, and the players all agree that is the most important part of the coming trip.